Portastatic Bright Ideas

[Merge; 2005]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: indie pop, bedroom pop, power-pop, chamber pop
Others: Superchunk, Fountains of Wayne, Arlo

As everyone knows, Portastatic is the don't-call-it-a-side-project side project of Superchunk frontman and Merge records honcho Mac McCaughan, who on Bright Ideas performs alongside his brother Matt on drums and Jim Wilbur on bass. Portastatic ostensibly exists separately from Superchunk so that McCaughan can make use of the extra latitude afforded by a band that needn't cater to the same expectations as his main project. Nonetheless, Bright Ideas sounds pretty much like, well, a Superchunk record. There are the loud guitars ("White Wave," "Through with People") along with the more whimsical numbers ("Bright Ideas") that mark post-Here's Where the Strings Come In Superchunk albums. "White Wave," in particular, sounds a lot like any number of cuts from the band's Tossing Seeds singles collection.

Make no mistake, though -- this is some inoffensive indie pop. Superchunk haven't really had much vitriol for about a decade, and McCaughan's subject matter on Bright Ideas doesn't signal any change at all. I'm not all that happy about the chorus of the title track featuring "Sometimes you wanna put the past in the past/ but every generation gets bit in the ass," but hey, aren't hokey lyrics part and parcel of this sort of thing? "I Wanna Know Girls" could be a second single on Fountains of Wayne's mall-rock opus Welcome Interstate Managers, and "The Soft Rewind" sounds like Arlo, but at least it's not boring. Overall, Portastatic is exactly as advertised: catchy, sometimes dumb, occasionally rockin', but always at least competent pop.

1.Bright Ideas
2. Through with People
3. White Wave
4. I Wanna Know Girls
5. Little Fern
6. Truckstop Cassettes
7. The Soft Rewind
8. Registered Ghost
9. Center of the World
10. Full of Stars